The man was comfortably resting on the driver seat as the car traveled down the M1.
It’s ok to sit back and enjoy the world, but the M1, the busiest and biggest freeway in the UK isn’t the place to do.
Bhavesh Patel, a 39-year-old Nottingham resident lost his driving license after doing the same exact thing on a Sunday evening last May. Patel decided to do the seat changing maneuver in his Tesla Model S as the car traveled down one of the oldest and most famous freeways of Britain the M1 which is 193 miles long and connects London and Leads.
You don’t require a very high IQ to figure out that pulling off this maneuver in a normal car is signing your own death warrant or losing your health insurance since health insurance doesn’t cover stupidity. Other than that this move could also be risky to other drivers.
Patel relied upon Model S hyped and controversial Autopilot feature (which allow the vehicle to self-drive in freeways using a ton of advanced sensors and algorithms) a bit too much and comfortably chilled in the passenger’s seat.
But while self-driving cars may be effective, it’s illegal to leave the driver seat while the car is cruising. Self-driving cars are meant only for aiding driver not replacing them completely, drivers are required to keep their hands on the steering wheel and stay alert even when the self-drive mode is on.
Patel, on the other hand, could be seen in the footage sitting alone in the passenger seat with his hands placed underneath his head, while the driver’s seat remained vacant.
The speed at which Patel was driving his Tesla was estimated to be around 40 mph when the incident happened.
In the police interview, Patel admitted his actions were indeed silly, but he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and claimed Tesla had amazing technology.
Understandably, the authorities had a somewhat different view of his actions.
Quite obviously the police authorities had a different view.
“What Patel did was grossly irresponsible and could have easily ended in tragedy,” says investigating officer PC Kirk Caldicutt from Hertfordshire Police.
“He not only endangered his own life but the lives of other innocent people using the motorway on that day.”
It’s not the first time we’ve seen people caught out for abusing Autopilot and the leeway it gives them.
While it is not the first time we have seen people using the autopilot as an alternative we hope that in the future self-driving cars don’t have so many legal and operational restrictions, which means we can relax comfortably in the back as our car drives us home.
And of course with changes in laws and design, maybe one day there will be no steering wheels or breaks for us to control.
But until then law authorities hope that the strong message they sent in Patel’s case by terminating his license for 18 months, sentencing him to 10 days of rehabilitation and 100 hours of unpaid community work and a hefty fine of 1800£ (close to 2500$).
“This case should serve as an example to all drivers who have access to autopilot controls and have thought about attempting something similar,” Caldicutt says.
“I want to stress that they are in no way a substitute for a competent motorist in the driving seat who can react appropriately to the road ahead.”